A few years ago, I worked at an apartment complex, and the very first person I ever showed an apartment to was a single mother. Her adorable young son was with her, and I loved that she treated him like a grown up person, asking for his thoughts, and if he felt that the rooms they were exploring could be home. He was a little over three years old when I met him, and still qualifies as the cutest kid I’ve ever seen.
I didn’t work for the apartment complex for long ~ the call of the restaurant industry lured me back, and I left my
mind-numbingly boring desk job behind to go back to the intensity of food service. But for the time I worked there (and lived on site) that single mother and her son were my next door neighbors.
Today, his school picture is on my fridge, and even though we only live about twenty minutes apart, we don’t see each other often. Earlier this week, I received an unexpected text message and the heads up that there would be an imminent delivery of banana chocolate chip muffins.
I have to tell you, no one bakes like Angie. No one. I mean, her cookies and brownies are like crack, but those banana chocolate chip muffins … nothing has ever come close to winning my affections away. They are sublime.
While Angie was delivering said muffins last Tuesday, I told her about my humbling attempt to make homemade brownies. She immediately nodded and said, “Yeah, brownies are tricky.” (PS. Did everyone know this, and I’m just late to the party? Or is it because I’ve only ever made box brownies? Either way … I was not aware that brownies were such a finicky baked good to produce!)
So we tentatively made a baking-day date. And that day was today.
Ange had the terrific idea of making sangria, so the first thing we did when she arrived was make a nice batch of fruit-filled wine. Her recipe (it was delish!) ~
1 bottle red wine (we used what I had ~ Pinot Noir)
1/2 cup Alize
1/4 cup Blue Agave syrup
1 cup Club Soda
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (** I don’t have a juicer, so Angie just squeezed one full, large orange into the concoction)
1 medium sliced orange
2 sliced lemons
1 peach, cored & diced
While we sipped our Sangria, we had ‘Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone’ on in the background (blasphemy of all blasphemies, Angie had never seen one or read a single HP book! Eegads!)
Because she’s a baking goddess, Angie brought her recipe books for me to thumb through. She asked if I wanted to make cookies or brownies.
“Both?” I replied sheepishly. She smiled as if to say, “Of course you do.”
We made cookies first. Having never actually made chocolate chip cookies before, I kind of stood awkwardly to the side as Angie began confidently dumping ingredients here and there, chatting the whole time. She’d also assumed that I had no ingredients at my house (a correct assumption by someone who hasn’t really spent a ton of time with me since 2007 when I could barely scramble eggs). I surprised her by being more than a little prepared. What we used:
*** We cut the recipe in half, because really, does a person home alone missing her man need 6-7 dozen cookies? No, I didn’t think so!
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
What to do:
2. Cream together butter, sugars (brown & white!) and vanilla extract until light. Add egg. Mix ’til well-blended. Add sifted ingredients and mix until well combined.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let stand for one minute on cookie sheet, and then place onto cooling racks. ** Don’t forget, if they look almost done, and you like your cookies chewy, remember that once you pull them out, they’ll keep cooking for a little bit! I learned this the hard way with my first batch of brownies last week.
On a roll, we moved to brownies next. Couple pearls of wisdom Angie shared as we assembled ingredients.
1. If the recipe says softened butter, that’s what it means. The same goes for melted butter, etc. There is a reason that the recipe calls for butter a certain way. Respect it. Your brownies will thank you.
2. When making the finicky brownies, don’t over mix. Just stir the ingredients until they are combined, and then leave them alone. Over-mixing is not a good thing.
Once I had noted these very important rules, we commenced the making of brownies.
What we used:
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate morsels
Sifted powdered sugar
What to do:
3. Stir in chocolate morsels.
5. Bake at 350 for 18-25 minutes. (My easy-bake oven isn’t calibrated properly, so it was an exercise in patience on Angie’s part but the 18-25 minutes is the time quoted in the recipe we used).
Enjoy with a big ole glass of milk!